Chronicle employee since 1992, with stints as assistant features editor and features editor; previously worked at The Gwinnett Daily News in suburban Atlanta, The Anderson Independent-Mail in Anderson, S.C., and The Rome News Tribune, Rome Ga.
Posted March 4, 2010 08:38 am - Updated March 5, 2010 05:12 am

Ruth's upholds diner tradition

I spent my summers as a teenager working for my father and his business partner in Thomasville, Ga., picking up and delivering washers and dryers, refrigerators and, worst of all, those 1970s entertainment centers - wall-size cabinets filled with a color television, turntable, radio and eight-track player.
There were more vacuum tubes than circuit boards in these devices, and they weighed the equivalent of a compact car.
This was all done well south of the gnat line, so you'd have to give an upward whiff of air to keep the critters off your nose and out of your eyes while your hands were otherwise occupied.
And it was hot. Sweltering heat in air so thick that sweat had nowhere to go. You dripped, but never dried.
Lunchtime was an air-conditioned treat, usually a stop at Herman's Hilltop Restaurant. It wasn't fancy, just diner fare of stuffed peppers or meatloaf, served with a choice of canned vegetables personalized by Herman with salt, butter and pepper and an iced tea with a corn muffin on the side.
All the working guys from the Goodyear store and the Georgia Freight delivery would meet there and solve the problems of the world in 45 minutes or less.
I loved it.
I wasn't cut out for real work, so I got into writing, but I still love those old-fashioned diners.
Ruth's Family Restaurant in Martinez is such a place, a back-in-time cafe that feeds you well with simple fare served fast and cheap for lunch.
Lunch Buddy Donna and I met there on a recent Friday. The menu is timeless comfort food offered as the standard meat and two vegetables with a drink and a roll.
I had a grilled chicken breast, pole beans, corn and a biscuit; Donna tried lemon pepper chicken breast, rutabagas and collard greens.
It's not fancy, but it's filling and good. We left room for dessert: blackberry cobbler and a slice of pecan cake.
Again, sturdy, decent and perfectly acceptable. The bill, with a 20 percent tip, was $22.11.
The stools and counters and plastic booths give Ruth's a 1970s feel, and that throwback effect is enhanced by the vintage prints on the walls.
Service is efficient and adequate.

What: Ruth's Family Restaurant
where: 3843 Washington Road
The food: 3
Service: 3
Value: 3.5
Health Department rating: 98 (inspected Dec. 22)
hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Call: (706) 863-5616